Ukraine Liveblog Day 53: Deadline for Separatists to Stand Down Expires

April 11, 2014

The 48-hour deadline for pro-Russian separatists to leave the government buildings in eastern Ukraine that they occupied earlier in the week is expiring today. The separatists were offered amnesty, but rejected it yesterday.

Yesterday’s liveblog can be found here. For an overview and analysis of this developing story see our latest podcast.

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An interactive map of the situation:

View Ukraine: April 9, 2014 in a larger map

Below we will be making regular updates. Be sure to check back often and hit refresh.

2155 GMT: We close today’s liveblog with a cliffhanger…

1914 GMT: David Patrikarakos has more reports from outside the SBU building in Lugansk:


The Party of Regions is the party of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych.


Is there evidence of suppression of the protesters voices? So far, protesters have been allowed to set up tents and protest, and we’ve seen no evidence of police or security forces disrupting those protests. As far as the separatists who have seized government buildings, most are still in control of the buildings they’ve seized, and only in Kharkiv were arrests made – and there was no bloodshed.

The Russian government, however, is also pushing this line. Here’s the latest from the Kremlin-operated Voice of Russia:

“If the Kiev government adopts a course towards suppression of the regional protests, the prospects for any meetings whatsoever, and cooperation on the Ukrainian crisis in general will be undermined. Kyiv, Washington and European capitals must be well aware of it,” the Russian foreign ministry said on its website on Friday evening.

“Continuing the discussion of the organization of the four-party meeting, we believe the work should be built on a realistic basis and within the generally acceptable framework,” the Foreign Ministry said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and United States Secretary of State John Kerry spoke by telephone on Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“Lavrov drew attention to the alarming situation in southeast Ukraine, including the ongoing threats to storm the buildings occupied by protestors. The head of the Russian Foreign Ministry urged the US to use all its influence on the authorities in Kiev so as to prevent any use of force and push them towards a dialogue with regional representatives to create the conditions allowing comprehensive constitutional reform to be held,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said on its website.

Interestingly, the Twitter account for the Foreign Ministry omits that ever important “if”:

1908 GMT: The leader of the protest movement in Lugansk has appeared before the SBU building which is in the hands of separatists, where he pledged to resist the government in Kiev with his Russian-made AK-47. RFE/RL provides video:

1756 GMT: Market watch – the Russian MICEX was down .23% today in what has been an up and down week. Stocks are nearly at the same levels that they were at on Monday (they are up slightly). The Russian Ruble is also down .21% against the US dollar:

INDEXCF Quote   MICEX Index   april 11

After hemorrhaging all month, the Ukrainian Hryvnia actually increased in value today, adding .13% against the dollar.

UAH to USD Exchange Rate   Bloomberg april 11

But don’t expect a major turnaround for Ukraine’s economy any time soon. Interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said in a televised speech today that it will take two years for Ukraine’s economy to recover:

“I am looking into the future very confidently. We need two years to stabilize the situation in Ukraine. We will stabilize it and make Ukrainians successful and confident in their future,”

1553 GMT: Ukraine’s Interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has given a speech on local TV stations in which he has slammed recent moves by the Russians, including the massive increase in the price of natural gas:

1525 GMT: Today’s headline – Putin said today that Russia would not fail to deliver gas to its customers, despite yesterday’s headline, which contained Putin’s threat to do just that. AFP reports:

“We certainly guarantee the fulfilment of our obligations before our European customers in full,” Putin said in comments released by the Kremlin. “The issue is not about us, the issue is about securing transit through Ukraine.”

Putin on Thursday sent a letter to the heads of 18 European countries that receive Russian gas, saying Moscow could turn off supplies because Kiev has so far failed to repay its $2.2 billion energy bill.

He urged immediate talks, suggesting that Europe help pay Ukraine’s debt.

Putin seems to be threading a needle here — perhaps a more accurate headline would be “Russia might cut off Europe’s gas, but it’s Ukraine’s fault.” Voice of Russia, the Kremlin’s propaganda-laden effort to counter the US government’s Voice of America, runs a different headline for a different audience – “US loan guarantees to help Ukraine are worthless.”

Washington’s offer to provide $1 billion in loan guarantees to help Ukraine is worthless as there are no banks willing to finance the recovery of crisis-hit country, President Vladimir Putin said Friday. Putin called Washington’s negative response to his letter addressed to European leaders, which contains proposals on how to solve the Ukrainian crisis, “a bit strange” as the United States was able so far only to offer guarantees rather than actual loans.

“What are these guarantees to the banks that would be ready to issue loans, but there are no such banks, which means there is no aid,” Putin said at a meeting with members of Russia’s Security Council. “We are seriously concerned about this,” he added…

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday called the Ukrainea’s non-payment for gas consumption “completely intolerable.” “The situation’s dramatization includes the fact that in the first quarter of this year [Ukraine] had the lowest gas prices, and even at those prices our Ukrainian partners stopped paying.

On April 7, there was another payment due according to the gas contract for March of this year. Out of the $540 million owed, not a single dollar or Ruble was paid. Absolutely nothing, zilch,” Putin said. “This is an absolutely intolerable situation,” the president said.

So perhaps the most accurate headline is “Russia may cut off Europe’s gas because Ukraine can’t be trusted and the Western Powers that prop up the government in Kiev are to blame for installing this government and then failing to support it.” Too long? That’s the point. Russia is sending different messages to different audiences at different times. The question becomes, then, if enough people in the West are taking the time to put all the headlines together.

1515 GMT: RFE/RL has an excellent piece of reporting on one of the latest lies spread by Russian TV channels:

Meet Andrei Petkhov. Actually, make that Petkov.

He emigrated to Germany some 20 years ago but traveled to the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv recently to act as a mercenary organizing against pro-Russian protesters.

Wait, check that. It seems the 40-year-old is a local pro-Russian patriot who “as per the usual” went to Mykolaiv’s central square to peacefully protest the “radical” government in Kyiv.

So who is Petk(h)ov? That depends on whether you’re watching the Russian state-run NTV or the state-run Rossia 1 channel.

RFE/RL goes on to document how Petk(h)ov tells different stories to different Russian news outlets that uncritically report them. Scratch that — these Russian “news” channels know exactly what they’re doing, but it’s not news.

The entire article is worth a read. Foreign Mercenary Or Pro-Russian Patriot? Depends On The Russian TV Channel.

1443 GMT: Russia claims that it is in the process of handing over Ukrainian ships that were seized by the Russian navy during the annexation of Crimea. The Russian state news outlet ITAR-TASS reports:

Russia began to hand over the Ukrainian Navy’s ships to Ukraine. The Priluki missile boat was being towed from the Sevastopol bay of Karantinnaya to neutral waters to hand it over to the Ukrainian side, an officer of the Black Sea Fleet Staff told ITAR-TASS on Friday.

Tugboats of the Black Sea Fleet were hauling the boat to the site of meeting in neutral waters. Then, Ukrainian tugboats would haul it toward Odessa, the officer said, adding that the boat was in such technical condition that could not move itself.

Earlier, the Fastov tanker was brought the same way from the bay of Streletskaya and handed over to Ukraine.

The report goes on to claim that most of the Ukrainian naval ships are “old, obsolete and in poor condition,” perhaps a line added to assuage domestic critics, though certainly compared to the Russian navy it’s a statement that has more than a kernel of truth.

1405 GMT: The Russian Foreign Ministry has been busy today. For starters, they issued a travel warning to all Russian citizens that they should avoid traveling in 109 countries out of fear that the United States will “hunt” them and arrested them as a response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea:

A statement on the ministry’s website reads: “The US administration, groundlessly refusing to recognise the reunification of Crimea with Russia, which is in full compliance with international law and the UN Charter, is trying to make routine practice out of a ‘hunt’ for Russian citizens in third countries with the goal of their subsequent extradition and conviction in the US on the basis of, as a rule, dubious charges.

“We strongly recommend Russian citizens refrain from travelling abroad, particularly to countries that have extradition treaties with the US.”

Again, even if some in the West don’t think that this is a rekindling of Cold War attitudes, clearly the Russian government disagrees.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has also made a series of statements that the MFA has been tweeting out today. Lavrov praised values like international cooperation and the growth of civil society, but then he turned around and said that foreign NGOs were not working towards these goals but were instead undermining these values.

Then Lavrov went on to argue that Russian intervention has “always” been a positive development for eastern Europe:

1343 GMT: NATO once again is warning that Russian forces, which they describe as being in a state of “high readiness,” could invade Ukraine within hours of the order being given. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Senior military officers from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization described Russian military forces deployed in more than 100 makeshift bases just across the Ukraine border as being in a state of high readiness—able to move swiftly within hours of a command from the highest level.

In a rare briefing to reporters at the alliance’s military headquarters in southern Belgium that officials said was aimed at countering “misperceptions” promoted by Russia, NATO officers showed for the first time commercial satellite images of fast aircraft, tanks, armored vehicles, artillery and temporary bases of troops it assessed to be airborne or special forces.

A senior military officer described Russia’s military movements as “destabilizing” to the region, and said the images showed Russian forces in temporary bases, often near roads leading into Ukraine, some based on airfields that until recently hadn’t been used.

“I would assess that this is a force that is very capable, at high readiness and…is close to routes and lines of communications and has the resources to move into Ukraine if it was ordered to do so.…It’s parked, it’s stopped, but it can move very quickly,” said Brig. Gary Deakin, a U.K. army officer who heads NATO’s crisis-operations center.

1335 GMT: How much popular support do these separatists have in eastern Ukraine? Recent polling data suggests that the vast majority of those in east Ukraine want to remain part of Ukraine, a very small portion want to join Russia, and even the majority don’t want to see the kind of federalization that the separatists (and the Russian government) are calling for.

Just as important, however, is the fact that observers in eastern Ukraine are seeing this trend play out. The crowds supporting the separatists are vocal, and in some cases prepared to fight, but they are also small. One look at today’s videos taken outside the SBU building in Lugansk, where separatists are holding a press conference inside, drives this home:

Yes, it’s snowing, but even when it hasn’t been snowing the crowds are small. And this is where the comparison with the Euromaidan protest in Kiev falls apart. People essentially lived for weeks, or even months, outside during the worst part of Ukraine’s winter. The protesters in eastern Ukraine may have some genuine concerns, but this is no Euromaidan.

1325 GMT: Back to the press conference in Lugansk, where pro-Russian separatists are laying out their demands:


Parubiy is the Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine, an advisory panel to the President.

1318 GMT: The interim government in Kiev does appear to be willing to give additional powers to eastern Ukraine’s regions. BBC reports:

Ukraine’s interim prime minister has offered to devolve more powers to eastern regions, where pro-Russian separatists are defying the government.

He is holding talks with regional leaders in Donetsk, where activists demanding self-rule are holding a big government building.

It is not clear if Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s offer will satisfy the separatists.

If the separatists, particularly those in Lugansk, are aware of Yatsenyuk’s proposals, they seem unfazed by them.

1313 GMT: rRo-Russian separatists in Lugansk and Donetsk who remain in control of government buildings know that the deadline for them to stand down is expiring. The situation is tense. David Patrikarakos reports from inside the SBU building in Lugansk:





The press conference is just beginning, but it looks like there will be no surrender in Lugansk unless the government in Kiev makes constitutional changes that would grant significant amounts of autonomy to the eastern regions.